'Smart pill' tells all

Figuring out who's taking their pills is about to get easier. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a "smart pill" that can tell whether a medication has been taken as prescribed.

Made by Proteus Digital Health, the small pill is made primarily of silicon and embedded with a microchip sensor no bigger than a grain of sand. When activated by stomach acid, the sensor transmits a signal to a skin patch that indicates a medication has been swallowed. The patch sends the information to a smartphone app, along with the wearer's heart rate, temperature, and activity level. The battery-operated patch must be changed weekly.

With about 50 percent of people not taking their medications properly, U.S. doctors are excited about the potential of this technology, particularly in diseases where medications are vitally important to survival or the prevention of serious side effects. It also is expected to help doctors refine dosages and measure benefits.

Hormone therapy benefits

To mark the 10-year anniversary of the controversy surrounding the Women's Health Initiative, the North American Menopause Society and 14 other medical organizations have jointly released a statement reinforcing the benefits of hormone therapy for menopause symptoms.

In 2002, the WHI trial of estrogen plus progestin was halted early, after investigators discovered the risks of hormone therapy - which include breast cancer, strokes, and heart disease - outweighed the benefits.

The new joint statement was meant to ease some of the confusion menopausal women have faced over the past decade.

The organizations jointly conclude hormone therapy is still safe - provided women take it early in menopause (up to age 59 or within 10 years after their menopause starts) and use it for the shortest possible period of time.

"We want women to know that there are options out there for relief of their menopausal symptoms. The level of risk depends on the individual, her health history, age, and the number of years since her menopause began," Dr. Janet Hall, immediate past president of the Endocrine Society, said in a statement.